Saturday, April 15, 2017

5 Thoughts on "The Xena Scrolls"

I don't know that I'll be doing every recap episode, but man, season 2's clip show picks up and develops the thoughts from before in a neat way. It's nowhere near as good as "Athens City Academy of the Performing Bards," but most things aren't.

  1. Up to this point in the series, it almost feels like the writers are more interested in characterizing by inversion. From Hudson Leick's two-episode stunt as Xena to Lucy Lawless' role as Xena, Dianna & Meg in "Warrior...Princess...Tramp" to Gabrielle's bloodlust in "Ten Little Warlords," there's a lot of it. Including "The Xena Scrolls," it's almost at the point where it feels as common as any of the characters acting like they're "supposed to" act, even though that obviously isn't strictly true. Even Joxer gets it here, to an extent.

  2. Where "Athens City" was a recap episode that largely focused on structure but allowed for some very clear, good moments of character development, "The Xena Scrolls" is very structurally focused on character while allowing for a couple moments of what we'll call worldbuilding. Nearly all the clips in "The Xena Scrolls" give a moment of character rather than re-tell a story, which makes sense given that it would be pretty weird if the centuries-later descendants of Xena, Gabrielle and Joxer did a lot of character work for any of the ancestors. The thing about this, though, is that up until now it's clear that Xena: Warrior Princess is set in a sort of mythological time; Xena herself invents CPR in Ancient Greece -- which would have been anachronistic even in "The Xena Scrolls" -- and hops happily through histories of Grecian, Roman, and Biblical origin as though they were separated by a few miles and weeks. "The Xena Scrolls" not only positions itself during World War II with explicit references to Nazis and Hitler, it ends with a sting saying "Fifty Years Later" with a fantastical version of the show being pitched to Rob Tapert (executive producer on Xena: Warrior Princess) by a thoroughly 90s 'descendant' of Joxer. It's the first episode, in other words, that puts Xena: Warrior Princess definitively in, if not our own timeline, then one that is self-contained.

  3. I'm glad they reused the trope of not just using clips from Xena: Warrior Princess, although the way they did it this time (Joxer tries to take credit for what look like some old Universal Horror pictures & gets called on it) is significantly reduced from "Athens City."

  4. The anti-Nazi stuff, which when I watched a few years back I probably kind of balked at, feels embarrassingly more relevant. I wonder how it felt a year and a half ahead of Saving Private Ryan; probably trendy?

    Even more than that, though, it feels strange coming just two episodes after "Ten Little Warlords," which is Ares, God of War's big coming-out-as-a-character episode. In that he loses his godhood and has to go through the tribulations of being human, until Xena ultimately helps him win his sword, and so powers, back. A (really very bad) Christmas episode later and we're here, where Ares gets out of his tomb and immediately talks about how dope he thinks Hitler is and how much he wants to help him. And, as previously mentioned, one of the big points of "Ten Little Warlords" is that Ares' absence causes folks who aren't used to harnessing anger to completely lose control, which goes completely unaddressed here. I wonder what that looks like in the Xena universe.

  5. For all the shitting on Hitler this episode does, there is a bit of a feel of equivocation on whether biology is destiny. There's an obvious alternative version where Lucy Lawless is a descendant of, say, Gabrielle, Renee O'Connor of Joxer and Ted Raimi of Xena. They didn't go that route, though, even as they largely change the characters of the descendants (Lawless' Mel is meek; O'Connor's Janice is swashbuckling; Raimi's 'Jacques' is ... pretty much Joxer). Around half of the way through the rest of this season is where I stop rewatching and start seeing a show for the first time, so part of me hopes that they went along with the idea here and dug through it: this episode takes place in the 1940s and 1990s; why not have The Xena Scrolls II in the 2040s? Make Lawless Joxer's great-great-great-etc. granddaughter.

    I'm sort of just doing fandom work here (decades late), but the point is that the show opens itself up to the possibility of not conforming in this way. Which isn't to say it's a radical show -- it closes itself off in a million others -- but the constant inversion of characters, the contextualizing work of non-Xena: Warrior Princess properties in the clip show, the myth-time of it, and much more makes Xena: Warrior Princess a peculiar thing that I hope gets explored as much as it could.

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